Republican secret to success: “a rich-poor alliance of affluent suburbs and poor rural counties”

In discussing the outcome of the recall election in Wisconsin, one analyst argues Republican electoral success is based on combining votes from two geographic areas:

McCabe argues the secret behind Walker and decades of Republican success nationwide is “a rich-poor alliance of affluent suburbs and poor rural counties.” In the recall election, Walker swept Milwaukee’s suburbs by huge margins and dominated the countryside. McCabe says in 2010, “Walker carried the 10 poorest counties in the state by a 13% margin”; these counties used to be reliably Democratic. He elaborates:

“Republicans use powerful economic wedge issues to great impact. They go into rural counties and say, do you have pensions? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs, referring to public sector workers. Do you have healthcare? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs? Do you get wage increases? ‘No.’ Well, you’re paying for theirs.”

The scenario was far different 50 years ago, explains McCabe:

“The Democrats were identified with programs like Social Security, the G.I. Bill and rural electrification. People could see tangible benefits. Today, they ask, ‘Is government working for us?’ And often their answer is no. They see government as crooked and corrupt. They figure if the government is not working for us, let’s keep it as small as possible.”

Another way to look at this would be to say that Democrats tend to get votes from large cities and less affluent suburbs. This is not the first time this suggestion has been made: Joel Kotkin has discussed how Republicans appeal to suburban voters  and others noted in the 2004 election how George Bush won a clear majority of votes in fast-growing exurban counties.

In the lead-up to the November 2012 elections, when there is commentary about geography, it tends to be about which states are toss-ups between the two candidates. But you can rest assured that the advisers for the candidates are looking at much finer-grained data and how to get more votes from more specific geographic areas like inner-ring suburbs, monied burbs, and the metropolitan fringe. States are too large to analyze quickly: think of Illinois and the differences between Chicago, Chicago suburb, and downstate voters. The analysis in the media could at least be about the areas in the states where there are greater population concentrations. Will Mitt Romney primarily campaign in “affluent suburbs and poor rural suburbs” while Obama will stick to the big cities and middle to lower-class suburbs? Is Romney making a suburban/rural pitch in a majority suburban nation while Obama is promoting a more urban campaign?

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  1. […] suburbs are often different kinds of places, here is one intriguing similarity: voters in both American and French suburbs have leaned to the right in recent elections. Her strong showing gives her […]

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